GCR 100 - 15th Edition

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

04 December 2014

A staggering 72 per cent of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s competition partners are nominated to Who’s Who Legal: Competition. Combine that with a global reach that sees it ranked in 12 jurisdictions and the experience of 12 former enforcement officials, and it becomes clear that Freshfields is once again the big fish in the antitrust pond.

Merger ranking 1 Cartel ranking 2
Global heads David Broomhall, Martin Klusmann
Number of jurisdictions with a competition team 14
Practice size 255
Partners 54
Counsel 16
Percentage of partners/counsel in Who's Who Legal 72
Senior associates 17
Associates 160
Other 8 knowledge management lawyers
Lateral partner hires 0
Internal partner promotions 1
Partner departures 1
Former enforcers 12

The partnership has remained steady over the last year. Michael Han in Beijing is the only partner to leave. He is replaced by Ninette Dodoo from Clifford Chance who is counsel and now co-head of the China practice. Meanwhile, the firm gave a further signal of its ambitions in the United States with the hire of Mary Lehner as counsel in Washington, DC in August 2013. She comes with impeccable pedigree having been an adviser to two Federal Trade Commission heads, Jon Leibowitz and Edith Ramirez.

The firm has had a typically busy and varied year. It represents BT Group in thorny investigations by the UK’s media regulator Ofcom, including alleged margin squeeze in the supply of super-fast broadband. Nicholas French and Bea Tormey in London are counsel to JPMorgan in the European Commission’s succession of financial services cartel cases. It settled the Swiss franc and Yen Libor cases, with a substantial leniency discount in the former but is fighting to the bitter end in the Euribor investigation, receiving a statement of objections in May. Other, related investigations are ongoing.

Freshfields’ merger practice had a notably strong year, advising on a string of tricky EU deals. Next up is the €32 billion cement mega-merger between Lafarge and Holcim. Frank Montag in Brussels acts for Holcim. The parties notified the deal to the European Commission at the end of October and hope that extensive pre-notification and carefully crafted divestments will be enough to persuade DG Comp to clear it in Phase I.

Austria

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Viennese team has enviable experience in cartel litigation and leniency, and has worked on some of Austria’s most high-profile recent deals. Who’s Who Legal nominee Axel Reidlinger, one of the most highly regarded members of Austria’s competition bar, leads the practice, supported by six associates.

Reidlinger has been busy lately representing ThyssenKrupp, one of the world’s leading elevator companies, before the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The team also acted for Reclay before the cartel court in an abuse of dominance complaint against Altstoff Recycling Austria and continues to advise companies in investigations in the electronics and food retail markets.

On the deal side, the Freshfields team was involved in one of Austria’s most complex matters last year, representing Axel Springer on the Austrian aspects of the sale of its regional newspaper, TV and women’s magazines businesses to Funke Mediengruppe, which went to Phase II before the cartel court. The firm also acted for Rudolf Leiner Gesellschaft and LKM Beteiligungsgesellschaft, the furniture retailer, on the competition law aspects of its acquisition by South African furniture retailer Steinhoff, which required notification before the European Commission.

Brussels

Undoubtedly, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer continues to deserve its seat at the top of the Brussels table. Along with Cleary, it is the yardstick against which other firms measure themselves, and while some rivals say they compete with Freshfields, no one disputes that it sets the standard for consistency, experience and excellence. The 11-lawyer partnership – all Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominees – is stable, the only major recent change being Thomas Janssens replacing David Broomhall as practice head. Broomhall is now global co-head of competition.

Freshfields’ size is a particular asset. As one partner puts it, “even if I don’t know, there’s always a colleague who does”. While other firms have some terrific practitioners, Freshfields has top-class expertise across the board and is well respected by the Commission, it says. The merger practice is especially strong and the main challenge is sustaining that success.

Thomas Wessely is the man of the moment for telecoms deals. He guided Hutchison 3G in its acquisition of Telefónica Ireland, which was approved subject to novel commitments related to network-sharing in May. He is also counsel to Spanish pay-TV company Ono which is being taken over by Vodafone, and represents GTS, whose eastern European fibre network is being bought by Deutsche Telecom. Frank Montag and Rafique Bachour are advising Holcim in its hefty merger with Lafarge, while Laurent Garzaniti helped gain multi-jurisdictional, conditional approval for Solvay in its joint venture with fellow chemical company Ineos, which combined Europe’s largest producers of a certain type of resin. Overall, Freshfields says it is involved in roughly 40 per cent of Phase II EU merger investigations.

On the behavioural side, Andrew Renshaw is regular counsel to Visa Europe and has been advising the company in its settlement with the Commission to reduce interchange fees, approved in February. It has a hand in many ongoing, high-profile cartel matters, including credit default swaps, auto parts and Platts oil. Meanwhile Onno Brouwer won two cases before the European Court of Justice last year.

Belgium

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer complements its elite Brussels EU presence with a leading Belgian competition law group. Practice co-chairs and Who’s Who Legal nominees Laurent Garzaniti and Thomas Janssens lead the work. Along with a team of four associates, they advise on an impressive proportion of cases opened by the authority and have acted in behavioural matters in sectors as diverse as retail, building, travel and energy. “You encounter them working on most cases,” says a lawyer from another firm. “They are very visible.”

France

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer continues to impress under the leadership of Jérôme Philippe who, together with partner Maria Trabucchi, is a Who’s Who Legal: Competition nominee. The group has handled a series of multi-jurisdictional mergers in recent years. Recently, the team advised Etisalat on the competition issues involved in its acquisition from Vivendi of a controlling interest in Maroc Telecom, and subsequently in the ongoing disposal of Etisalat’s African subsidiaries to Maroc Telecom.

The firm advised an energy sector consortium comprising Total, GDF Suez and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic on the antitrust and competition law aspects of the creation, development and management of an offshore gas production plant in the Caspian Sea. Freshfields also represents SGL Carbon in follow-on damages claims brought by incumbent railway operator SNCF in relation to the European Commission’s cartel investigation and subsequent decision in the electrical and mechanical carbon and graphite case. The claim was rejected by the Paris Administrative Court, leading to an appeal by SNCF. The matter is also pending before the Paris Commercial Court.

Germany

With 10 Who’s Who Legal nominees, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is firmly entrenched as one of Germany’s top competition firms. Global co-head Martin Klusmann leads the German practice, while partner Tobias Klose is head of the Düsseldorf antitrust team. Klose says the partnership’s strength across the spectrum of antitrust work is the key to its success. Burkhard Richter is a merger specialist, Peter Niggemann works on private litigation matters and Uta Itzen is heavily involved in some of the largest cartel and litigation cases in Germany. Frank Röhling became the eleventh partner in the firm’s German competition practice in May last year.

Freshfields has advised on many interesting and complicated mergers in the last year. It represented Axel Springer in the sale of regional newspapers, TV and women’s magazines businesses to Funke Mediengruppe, cleared by the authority with conditions in April. The pair will also create joint ventures in distribution and marketing. Klusmann was counsel to Chiquita in its prospective merger of equals with Fyffes to create the world’s leading banana company, though shareholders voted against the deal. The European Commission cleared the transaction in Phase I, subject to Fyffes cancelling its exclusive contract with shipping line Maersk. Peter Niggeman meanwhile helped Holcim gain Phase II, unconditional clearance from the Commission for the sale of Spanish assets to Cemex.

On the behavioural side, Freshfields is advising in the enormous auto parts conspiracy. It also helped a party come to a settlement with the Commission in the wire harnesses cartel settlement. The firm defends numerous major industrial companies against follow-on damages claims, including ThyssenKrupp (railway and elevator cartels), Holcim (cement), Solvay (hydrogen peroxide) and Asahi Glass Company (car glass).

Italy

Tommaso Salonico, competition head at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Italy and the firm’s managing partner in the country, is the best competition lawyer in Italy for energy. On behalf of E.ON, he is fighting an appeal in the Council of State regarding alleged bid rigging for a natural gas concession. The TAR annulled the original decision, however, the IAA challenged that verdict. Meanwhile, fellow partner Gian Luca Zampa is assisting ABB following a dawn raid of its subsidiary Power1 for alleged resale price maintenance.

Freshfields’ main office is in Rome, though senior associate Ermelinda Spinelli works from Milan. Unsurprisingly, the firm has a different, more international focus than the Italian players. It is representing Emirates against Alitalia’s efforts to stop it continuing its Milan to New York route. Furthermore, Salonico says he is talking with various foreign businesses that are considering entering the Italian market – an effect of the government’s drive to increase investment in Italy. Closer to home, Freshfields advised Allianz, one of a number of insurers that committed to make it easier for brokers to work for multiple insurance companies, thereby ending a cartel investigation opened last year.

Netherlands

Who’s Who Legal nominees Onno Brouwer and Winfred Knibbeler lead the elite competition practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Amsterdam, which also boasts a solid group of 11 associates. The firm is busy with merger work, representing Blackstone in multiple real estate transactions including its acquisition of Multi Corporation, a leading commercial developer of urban retail space.

Freshfields continues to represent Ziggo, the largest cable operator in the Netherlands, in the European Commission’s Phase II merger investigation of Liberty Global’s intended takeover of the company. The stock and cash transaction values Ziggo at €10 billion and would create a world leader in the cable sector.

Another client is Dutch insurance company ING. Freshfields successfully defended ING against an appeal by the Commission before the European Court of Justice regarding state aid issues. In addition, the team is currently representing UPS as it challenges the decision that prohibited its takeover of international courier TNT.

Russia

At Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, counsel Alexander Viktorov, a Who’s Who Legal lawyer, heads the Moscow competition group. Two associates work alongside him full-time on competition matters. The majority of this is merger work, Viktorov says, although at least a third of the team’s time is taken up by behavioural cases, compliance work, training and other matters.

The team has worked on several high-profile matters over the past year or so, including advising Global Ports on its €1.2 billion acquisition of rival National Container Company, a deal that united the two largest container handling businesses in Russia. More recently, the firm assisted Netherlands-based AerCap in obtaining Russian merger clearance for its acquisition of rival aircraft-leasing company ILFC, as well as ABB on the Russian antitrust aspects of its acquisition of Power-One, a leading provider of energy-efficient power solutions. Other regular clients include Solvay, Severstal and Russian Railways.

Spain

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Spanish competition practice continues to flourish despite the challenging economic climate. The antitrust practice counts two full equity partners; practice head Francisco Cantos and partner Álvaro Iza, both nominees to Who’s Who Legal: Competition, work alongside two senior associates and six associates spread across the Madrid and Barcelona offices.

One of the first international law firms to gain a foothold in the Spanish market, Freshfields counts a mixture of national and international companies as clients. This year, for example, it advised EADS/Airbus on the complex state aid implications of its acquisition of Alestis Aerospace, a Spanish subcontractor of Airbus, while also helping Holcim on the EU merger clearance of its proposed sale of a 75 per cent stake of its Spanish operation to Cemex, and assisting telecom company Ono’s shareholder Providence Equity Partners on the EU sale of Ono to Vodafone.

The team has been involved in some of the most complex behavioural matters in Spain, including an impressive number of abuse of dominance defences. Cantos advised Hewlett-Packard in its abuse complaint against Oracle, an international case spanning multiple jurisdictions, while Iza defended media group Mediapro in several interrelated broadcasting rights challenges. The team also defended telecoms company Abertis against margin squeeze accusations, and E.ON energy in two abuse of dominance cases. On the cartel side, Cantos is appearing for General Motors on the antitrust investigation in the automotive sector, the largest ever launched by the Competition and Markets Authority (CNMC). He also acted for packaging company Linpac in court proceedings before the Audiencia Nacional, the first instance appeals court, to protect a leniency application used to secure immunity from an €8.5 million fine.

United Kingdom

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s antitrust, competition and trade practice is one of the best in Europe, if not the world. Simon Priddis replaced Rod Carlton as head of the practice earlier this year. He leads the 16-partner, 46-associate team. Twelve London partners feature in Who’s Who Legal: Competition, including competition litigation head Jon Lawrence. Partner Andrea Gomes da Silva is back with the firm having spent much of 2013 helping set up the CMA, while Martin McElwee was promoted to partner in May.

On the transactional side, Priddis advised AstraZeneca on Pfizer’s €79 billion takeover bid. Amid widespread political concern about an American takeover of one of the UK’s leading pharma companies, AstraZeneca rejected the offer; however, Pfizer may return. Carlton meanwhile represented Novartis in two major deals – its joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health and the sale of its animal health business to Eli Lilly. Alex Potter was counsel to DE Master Blenders on its merger with Mondelez, creating one of the world’s leading coffee companies.

Nicholas French and Bea Tormey advise JP Morgan Chase in the European Commission’s investigation of alleged collusion to manipulate benchmark interest rates. It settled in the Swiss Franc investigation, agreeing a €72 million fine for two separate offences in October, and the Libor rigging case last December, agreeing to pay €80 million. The merchant bank, however, is contesting the Commission’s Euribor investigation and received a statement of objections in May. Jon Lawrence and Mark Sansom helped ABB reach an out-of-court settlement in June to resolve a follow-on damage claim by the National Grid arising from the gas insulated switchgear cartel.

United States: Washington, DC

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s US antitrust boutique boasts an impressive five partners in Who’s Who Legal, including practice leaders Paul Yde and Robert Schlossberg and former FTC head Terry Calvani. While the practice benefits from being part of a close-knit global network, Yde says an increasing amount of the team’s work is homegrown, and the group has been involved in most non-criminal agency investigations of the past few years. They acted for Hachette in the e-book investigation and related damage claims, Bank of America in the DoJ’s credit-default swaps investigation and JPMorgan Chase in regulatory and criminal investigations regarding Libor. On the merger side, Yde leads a team advising Novartis on two multi billion-dollar deals with GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly, while Schlossberg was counsel to Siemens on its eventually unsuccessful pursuit of France’s Alstom.

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